Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 35, September 12, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

The desperation to prevent the alternative from taking root

Simon Case Appointed Head of the Civil Service

As part of the programme of the Prime Minister and his inner circle to strengthen the rule of the elite through rearranging the state, Boris Johnson has appointed Simon Case to Head of the Civil Service, following the resignation of Sir Mark Sedwill [1]. Case took up the role of Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service on September 9.

At 41 years old, Case is the youngest person to hold the position since 1916, and has had what could be described as a meteoric career in various parts of the state. Just nine years after joining the Civil Service in 2006, he became director of strategy for GCHQ [2], following which he served as Principal Private Secretary to Prime Ministers David Cameron and Theresa May from January 2016 to May 2017. At that point, he took up the post of Director General for the UK-EU Partnership, and also led the Cabinet Office Implementation Unit. In the same year, he was honoured as Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) by the Queen.

In January 2018, Case briefly became Director General Northern Ireland and Ireland in the (now-dissolved) Department for Exiting the EU; in July that year, he was appointed Private Secretary to the Duke of Cambridge, in which role he was central to the Royal PR machine [3]. He was seconded from this role in May this year, just after the peak of the first Covid wave, to serve as Downing Street Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister [4].

It is reported that Case was asked to make a formal application by Downing Street for the position as Head of the Civil Service [5], and that Boris Johnson, who works closely with the royal household according to his spokesman, discussed the appointment with the Duke [6].

The appointment is being seen as a political move, and the installation of a "yes man" by opponents. Shadow First Secretary of State Angela Rayner tweeted that the "problem with 'close allies' or some might say 'cronies' is that they often tend to say what you want to hear".

Moreover, it is part of the continuing "shake-up" of the Civil Service - what Johnson's Special Adviser Dominic Cummings called a "hard rain" following the resignation of Case's predecessor Sir Mark Sedwill in June. The past six months have seen the departure of five Permanent Secretaries. As well as Sedwill, Sir Philip Rutnam, Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, resigned in February, and is now suing the Home Office for constructive dismissal. Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service, resigned "at the request" of the prime minister in June. Sir Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, resigned in July. And recently, Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education, was sacked on August 26 following the A-level and GCSE fiasco.

The government is taking further the rearranging of the state around the concentration of political power in the inner circle of the Prime Minister; in the words of Cummings, "a smaller, more focused and more elite centre is needed". As George Monbiot recently put it [7], the government is reducing "rival centres of power", including the Civil Service, into "satellites of its own authority, controlled from the centre, deprived of independent action". In particular, the change of arrangements is to incorporate the Civil Service as an adjunct of this ruling elite [8].

The existing, old, arrangements are that the person of state rules over the people, and assumes the authority to act supposedly in the name of all, in a "democracy" divided between those who govern and those who are governed. Not only is it in crisis, riddled with factional infighting and unable to resolve conflicting powerful interests, the existing authority increasingly lacks legitimacy.

In this context, the government, and in particular the Prime Minister's inner circle, are changing the arrangements of the executive power of the state and its bureaucracy. In the name of "efficiency", they have been restructuring the state in the service of private interests, while concentrating power in the hands of the executive. They are seeking the individual personalities that can form the elite, who can deliver results and provide the right image or gloss.

In opposition, the will to be of the modern democratic personality, in which all speak in their own name, demands the alternative in which it can flourish. This alternative is expressing itself in the resistance, through which people are speaking in their own name and rejecting the existing authority. The alternative is one in which the working people themselves constitute the authority and decide matters directly.

This striving for the alternative is pointing to the need for mechanisms based on the vesting of decision-making power in the people themselves. The desperation to prevent this alternative from taking root is creating political chaos, for which the answer is being sought in the police powers and the rearrangement of the state around the wielding of those powers.


1. "Conflict Between Government and Civil Service: Head of the Civil Service and National Security Adviser Steps Down", Workers' Weekly, July 11, 2020

2. Camilla Tominey, "How Simon Case rose to the top of the civil service", The Spectator, August 31, 2020
According to this article, "Case is also suspected of being the author of a Guardian piece by a senior GCHQ officer called 'Peter', explaining why the intelligence services needed to collect bulk data to do its work, which was published when he was working there."

3. According to Tominey's article cited above, "A year spent working on the difficult Northern Ireland borders issue made him want to leave politics for a quieter life at Kensington Palace in March 2018, two months before Harry and Meghan's wedding. Little did he know that the deteriorating relationship between the royal brothers would explode into a constitutional crisis, with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stepping down as senior royals two years later. Case forged a close partnership with the Queen's private secretary, Sir Edward Young, the most powerful aide at Buckingham Palace, and became instrumental in elevating William's image as a statesman, to the disquiet of Harry, who felt pushed out. It is notable that on Case's watch William and Kate were revealed to have flown by budget airline to Balmoral, after Harry and Meghan had 'snubbed' the Queen to fly by private jet to Elton John's mansion in Nice."

4. Tominey further tells us: "In his role as Number 10's permanent secretary, Case oversaw anything Covid-related that crossed the Prime Minister's desk. He is being hailed as the man to rescue the government's erratic handling of the coronavirus crisis."

5. Alain Tolhurst, "Ex-private secretary to Prince William set to be new Cabinet Secretary as Boris Johnson shakes up civil service", PoliticsHome, September 1, 2020

6. "Simon Case confirmed as UK's top civil servant", BBC News, 1 September 2020

7. George Monbiot, "For Your Eyes Only", personal blog, September 4, 2020

8. "Reorganising the Arrangements of Government: Cummings and Gove Push Ahead with their Overhaul of Whitehall and the Civil Service", Workers' Weekly, July 25, 2020


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